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Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art


Too often art that is nontraditional can get a bad rap for a host of reasons, from being too cheery, kitsch, or nostalgia-driven to being viewed as not highbrow enough for the serious art collector.

But once in a while comes a show that hits on these often divergent stressors illustrated above to showcase not only what is possible with an installation but how such works can lift the imagination of the viewer.

That is the beauty of “Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art,” a traveling exhibit that originally debuted at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California before (literally at times) filling up the gallery spaces at the Muskegon Museum of Art.

“Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art” was created by the center’s Curator of Exhibitions Carrie Lederer at the Bedford Gallery and seeks to celebrate the history and joy of an art movement with roots stretching back to the late 60s and early 70s. 

And while the use of inflatables would fall out of fashion, the thing about time is that everything old has a chance to be revived, and “Blow Up” celebrates its most recent resurgence.

The show is a collection of representational and nonrepresentational objects that all vie for your attention while seeking to present a distinct point of view that can only be experienced by visiting this fantastic exhibition first hand, as photos cannot even begin to do justice to the scale of many of these objects.

Examples of the playful nature of this artwork can be discovered within San Francisco artist Guy Overfelt’s tribute to the film “Smokey and the Bandit,” as he has created a life-size replica of the Trans Am made famous by this popular movie from the 70s. 

One of my personal favorites is the “Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable” inflatable of two enormous pink bunny rabbits that seek to reflect Japanese culture’s obsession with cute and anime, but with a disturbing nod to the realities of this country’s availability of space in its urban housing markets. Anyone who has seen images of the cage-like housing or pod hotel movement emerging in Asia can quickly understand the contrast of cute and cramped. 

“Blow Up” includes major works by Claire Ashley (Chicago), Lewis deSoto (Napa), Patrick Flibotte (New York), Billie Grace Lynn (Miami), Guy Overfelt (San Francisco), Momoyo Torimitsu (Tokyo), and Christo and Jeanne-Claude (New York).

At this free opening reception on Thursday, the museum will offer refreshments as well as a chance to secure your very own balloon animals by inflatable artist Jim Perry.
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